All posts by Evelyn Ly

An Open Letter To My Dad

Dear Dad,

Communicating with each other has never been a strength of ours, so I’ll just jump right in. We’ve had our fair share of disagreements and for the longest time, I was always the child who had to do what she was told. Sometimes, it’s hard for you to remember that I’ve grown up into an adult now and sometimes, it’s hard for me to remember that you only want what’s best for me. So, thank you. I don’t tell you this enough, but you amaze me. You are so talented with fixing anything around the house which, as a child, didn’t mean much to me. But you were able to use those skills to solve my problems like fixing broken necklaces and even shoes when I was younger! Now I’m able to appreciate your skills and your heart. We don’t say it and we rarely express it, but I am so grateful that you are my dad. I got really lucky. I guess all I really want to say is thank you for always being there, despite our disagreements and despite our lack of communication sometimes. Like most of our conversations, I’ll keep this sweet and short. Thanks dad and I hope you have an amazing father’s day.

Love always,

Evelyn

An Open Letter To My Mom

Dear Mom,
Where do I even begin? I’ve realized that I see you on a daily basis since I’ve moved home from school but rarely do we ever have long heart-to-heart conversations like we used to when I wasn’t living at home. I’m wondering if, because we are so much more exposed to each other, we’ve lost a bit of depth in our interactions. So let me begin with saying I’m sorry.

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Gender Roles and Stereotypes: Someone Please Tell Me Why They Still Exist

I never thought I would write a blog about something like this, what with it being the 21st century and all, but as much as I would like to believe that we are slowly moving towards a society where blurring gender roles and getting rid of age-old stereotypes were not only okay, but celebrated, I do question if it is just wishful thinking. These are a few of the examples that I have heard about from friends or have seen firsthand. Some of you may disagree due to your own experiences (which I can understand) but this blog is meant to generate some critical thinking rather than target individuals or groups and attack them. I would love nothing more than for you to think of any situations where this may be applicable, alter your thinking, and change your behaviour accordingly. If you cannot think of any, then that’s great! It means that together, as a society, we are moving in the right direction. Continue reading

Friday Find: 500 Rep Workout (it’s not as bad as it sounds!)

We’re just over a month into 2016 now and if one of your new year’s resolution was to get
healthier and be more active, this is the perfect find for you! I know the title of the
workout sounds really intimidating but once you read through it, it’s actually not that bad! I really like this workout because you can take as long as you need to complete the workout in one
sitting. Of course, each day you do the workout, you get a little stronger and you complete it a little quicker. It’s a great sense of accomplishment seeing your time used for each work out decrease! It’s a great full body workout and over time, it will definitely help increase your muscle endurance. You can find the workout here. Good luck and enjoy!

Skinny Shaming – The Other Side of the Coin

I honestly can’t believe that this is a “thing.” When did it become acceptable for us to criticize each other  based on our shapes and sizes? I honestly can’t even remember. More often than not, the shape that we have is not something that we can control. Some women have larger hips and are curvier, while other women have a slim “stick-like” figure. In this blog, I will share a few stories with you regarding the skinny body figure of a few of my closest friends.

I had a really good friend who was really, really skinny. She used to eat all the time to try and gain weight but nothing seemed to help. She would eat all sorts of unhealthy foods throughout the day and sometimes, well into the early morning hours. She read online that these were the reasons for why people gained weight so quickly, and that’s exactly what she wanted. The only problem? Her body is naturally different from the rest of these women who posted on the forums. Her body processed things differently, so it was very difficult for her to gain weight. The huge problem with her approach was very obvious – even though she did not physically look any curvier or more “shapely,” she was poisoning her body. So, you may ask, why did she did this to herself?

Ever since she was a child, she was told that she would never find a husband because no husband wants such a skinny wife.

From the outside, I never really understood it either. It wasn’t until her and I had a heart-to-heart talk that all of her insecurities came out. Ever since she was a child, she was told that she would never find a husband because no husband wants such a skinny wife. Could you imagine hearing that at the very young age of 4? Thinking that you won’t be loved not because of your personality, interests, etc. but rather because of your looks? Right off the bat, she was being trained to be more concerned with trying to gain weight (and as a result, curves) instead of making and working towards achieving goals related to her education and career.
I was horrified when she revealed this to me. But that’s not where it stopped. She went on to tell me that sometimes when she’s studying on campus, her peers would ask her if she was doing okay because she looked “very skinny and ill.” People constantly told her to eat more and that she should “take care of herself.” The worst part was that she actually was taking care of herself; she was very healthy! The words of these strangers, the same ones that she’s heard her whole life, was what drove her to become unhealthy.

It is not okay to comment on somebody else’s figure. After hearing my friend’s story, I’ve realized that you will never really know how you are affecting the person that you are speaking to. You may think that it’s just an innocent, passing comment but it very well may not be just that. I am personally very guilty of this…

I was chatting
with two other friends and we were talking about the “thigh gap” trend. For those of you who don’t know what the thigh gap phenomenon is, it’s basically when a woman has a gap between her thighs when standing up straight with her knees touching each other. I laughed when I heard about this and said to my friends that I wouldn’t want that because I personally did not find it attractive. I also mentioned that it was impossible for me to ever have that because genetically, I have thicker thighs. I didn’t realize this right away, but one of my friends fell silent very  quickly while the other agreed with me. I later talked to the friend who went quiet and asked her if she was okay and she just brushed me off. I realized a few days later that she had a thigh gap. As you probably guessed already, I felt terrible…my heart sank and I instantly regretted that conversation. My friend is naturally very skinny. She doesn’t work out and she eats whatever she wants, whenever she wants. She just happened to have a thigh gap.

What I realized from this situation is that I am very guilty of putting another group down purely because I know it is a look that I could not possibly achieve. Instead, I quickly dismissed the idea and claimed that it’s not something that I want anyway. I have seen this happen time and time again with a number of different individuals. To be absolutely honest, I don’t think that a thigh gap is unattractive. I actually really don’t care at all. I do not have a preference one way or another, so I question myself… why did I say what I said? Ever since I came to realize this mistake, I never made it again.
There is no need to put down other groups in order to empower yourself.

In the words of Emma Stone, “my great hope for us as young women is to start being kinder to ourselves so that we can be kinder to each other.”

Do you know what you’re giving up?

We’ve all seen it… the little pop up window that stops us in our tracks before we get to the page, game, or software program we want to use…the “terms and conditions” or “terms of service.” Some simply let you check off the “I agree” box, while others will make you scroll through the mini document before you are given the option to check off the “I agree” box. Either way, how many of us have actually read through the whole document before we accept the contract?
The few times I’ve actually scrolled through the document and skimmed it over, it took forever (okay maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit). So, you guessed it, I rarely ever actually read through the terms. I’m sure a number of us are either too busy to read it or don’t want to spend the time to do so! We’re eager t
o get to the page or game that we want to actually read or play instead. But, do we know what we’re agreeing to when we hit that “I accept” button? And how about apps on our phones? More often than not, the terms are compiled into a short list that’s easy for us to go through if we spend a few extra minutes to explore what we’re agreeing to.

I did a little bit of research and found this article which was published in December 2014. One of the most interesting lines I read was “ Out of all the TOS [Terms of Service] I have dealt with in 20 years, Facebook’s are the most intrusive. To be granted rights to track an individual’s movements, and thus the people that would be with those individuals, and to potentially commercially exploit without permission all pictures posted on Facebook without specific consent, is breath-taking. Users must take responsibility for their data. Facebook’s ability to exploit our data is contingent upon our allowing them to do so. It is up to us to value our privacy and to spend a few minutes setting some restrictions on the privacy settings.”

Out of all the TOS [Terms of Service] I have dealt with in 20 years, Facebook’s are the most intrusive.

After reading this, my main concern is the fact that privacy seems like an issue of the past. I remember when my parents used to store our SIN cards in a secure place, but I’m finding that a lot of people carry these in their wallets all the time! Nowadays, on Facebook alone, we share our birth date, gender, sexual orientation, home address, phone number, education, work, pictures (social and/or personal), our likes, dislikes, and more! I’ve even seen people post their driver’s license online — in my opinion, that’s asking for identity theft. But these days, it seems like people are simply not as worried about their privacy as even 10 years ago. More often than not, users value the use of social media sites such as Facebook over their own privacy, so we end up blindly giving away rights to our privacy just to be active online.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re logged into your Facebook while you’re shopping online, you start seeing a lot of advertisements from that specific site that you’ve been shopping on? I sure have, and many of my friends have also experienced this. They’ll either come up as “suggested pages” or there’ll be an advertisement snuck in there somewhere on your newsfeed. I’m not going to lie, I’m guilty of clicking on one of these links and I end up buying that item that I was eyeing, but decided against it before. It’s very interesting once you start to notice what’s really going on here. You’ve basically put together a profile, full of your demographics, your beliefs, and your values. It’s a dream for companies – they don’t have to seek you out because you’ve already put yourself out there. So, welcome to the world of non-stop advertisements, a place where your photos can be shared with anybody, and anybody can get into contact with you. Just takes one click.

Bottom line is, protect yourself and control what hits the internet because once it gets uploaded, there’s a high likelihood of it being there forever.  I’d be a hypocrite if I said I read all of the terms before agreeing. I’d be a hypocrite of I said I always kept up with the new privacy settings. So, as one user to another, I encourage that we all at least try to become more conscious about the changes that a website goes through and what we agree to before we actually hit that “I agree” button.

Creative Corner: Hummus!

If you’re anything like me, you love hummus. You could eat hummus with EVERYTHING. I am just such a big fan because eating vegetables raw and on their own is the healthiest way to go.. but I hate it. I don’t mind eating vegetables with dip, but more often than not, I’ll be dunking my vegetables into dips that are jam packed with fat, preservatives, sugar, and sodium. Enter, HUMMUS – or better yet – homemade hummus to the rescue! Hummus is wonderful because it contains lots of fiber, antioxidants, and calcium.

So, if you’re bored of the classic way to eat hummus, click here for an amazing list of different hummus recipes to try! It’s super easy: all you do is combine the list of ingredients (only 5!) and blend. Optional: you can make your hummus thinner by adding water to the mix (one tablespoon at a time until you’re happy with the consistency).

Creative Corner: Fresh Homemade Salsa

One of my best friends came up to visit me this weekend and we had everything planned out – dinner at Burrito Boyz when she got here, Beechwood Doughnuts for breakfast, lunch in the Falls the next day, and sushi for dinner that same night. It was then that we realized… that’s a lot of eating out, which generally means less consumption of healthier food and vegetables! Our solution? SALSA. It’s a great snack to have when everything else is closed at night and it’s guilt-free! So, as soon as she got here, we went to the grocery to pick up our ingredients: tomatoes, white onion, green bell pepper, and lime. I’m sad to say that I totally forgot about cilantro (but it still tasted amazing). We decided to whip up a batch of salsa to snack on before getting dinner. This is what we used:

  • 3 cups of tomatoes (diced)
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 cup of onion (diced)
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Note: You can add more salt and/or pepper if you’d like!

We skipped jalapeno peppers because neither of us can handle spicy foods and as I mentioned before, we forgot to pick up cilantro!  All you have to do with your fresh, tasty ingredients is put them altogether and stir. We tried it right away, but decided that it needed to sit in the fridge for a bit. I figured it would help set in the flavours a little better, while my friend was a little worried that it would get really watery. We both were right – the flavours were bold and fresh, but it definitely got very watery. The plus side was that the liquid was jam packed with, yes, FLAVOURS. It was absolutely delicious.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and tomatoes are in season during the summer months! It’s a great way to enjoy and add a variety of vegetables into our diet.

One final note: if you have any leftovers, try putting your salsa (strained) into a frying pan with two or three beat eggs. It makes a delicious omelette!

salsa

Friday Find: Mango Body Sorbet by The Body Shop

I came across this delightful product last summer when it first launched and immediately fell in love with it. Consistent with all of their other products, The Body Shop’s mango scent in this sorbet does not disappoint. I highly recommend this body sorbet for the summer time because it is super lightweight! I was really worried that it would be greasy because I had never seen another moisturizer with the same texture. But, I am very happy to say that it absorbs really quickly and doesn’t feel sticky at all, which is never pleasant during a hot or humid summer day. It is enriched with Community Fair Trade organic aloe from Guatemala which makes the sorbet very moisturizing (for up to 24 hours) and lovely for cooling down a sunburn! When I picked up my last bottle in store, the sales associate recommended that I store my body sorbet in the fridge to give it an extra cool boost and WOW. The sorbet itself is already cooling (which is lovely for post-shower moisturizing..in an apartment without air conditioning) but having that extra cooling boost was just heavenly.  I highly recommend stocking up on these lovely treats during their ‘mix and match’ promotions — you definitely can get addicted to these and it’ll get quite pricey if you buy them one at a time!

 

Marketing and the Food Industry

Happy Accident or Intelligently Planned?

Do you make a grocery list before you go shopping, but end up buying much more than you expected? Ever wonder why staple goods like milk, bread, and eggs are never located next to each other in a grocery store? Have you noticed that usually, dairy products are located in the back of the store? This way, you have to make your way through the rest of the grocery store before reaching these products. Chances are, everybody has some sort of dairy product on their grocery list. This layout is quite common and consistent across most grocery chains and their stores. This is not a mistake. In fact, it’s actually planned out perfectly.  As consumers, we used to be able to avoid aisles (because that’s usually where the not-so-healthy food and snack products are), but this is no longer the case. Have you noticed that there are gigantic baskets of cheap snacks near meat and dairy products or at the end of the aisles facing the perimeter of the store? No matter which store you are in, there are huge signs shouting “SALE” for products like granola bars, cookies, chocolate bars, etc.

Tip: Be careful with impulse buys. A sale isn’t always a great deal when it’s something that you really don’t need. Make a grocery list and stick with it.

Healthy or.. not?

“FAT FREE” “50% less sodium/sugar” “No sugar added” “No artificial flavours” etc.

These are among some of the many labels that I am sure we have all seen. I’ve even seen products that are over 100% (I’m talking about you, Vitamin C) of your recommended daily nutrition. First question that comes to mind is, why do we need that much Vitamin C?  However, many of us see these products, purchase, and consume them without a second thought. We believe that because we are getting all of our Vitamin C from this specific product, we don’t need to consume any more of it. Instead, we treat ourselves because we feel a sense of accomplishment for consuming more than the recommended amount. So, instead of eating fruits, we go for a piece of cake instead. By choice, we end up consuming products that are worse for us simply because we believe that we’ve already consumed enough healthy products! For example, I found this image off of Pepsico’s website.

Also, take note that the amount of sugar in 250 milliliters is  a whopping 27 grams. By consuming just one glass of apple juice, yes, we are getting more than our recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. But is it worth it to consume that much sugar? The packaging is extremely misleading. Corporations will gloat about the benefits of their products, but they will never try and alert their consumers of the negative aspects of their products. We will never see a label that says “Beware of high levels of sugar”.

Tip: Try and stick to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s the best way nourish your body. In my opinion, it’s okay to have a treat once in awhile, but don’t overdo it! A multivitamin is also a great option to try and get all the vitamins and minerals we need, but don’t depend on it — you still need to eat healthy food too!

Bigger = More? Better Value?

This is no longer a surprise but still worth mentioning. The packaging of some products have increased, while the actual product that you’re buying has decreased. For example, cereal boxes are rather large, but the amount of cereal you actually get is less than before. This is one of the best ways for corporations to cut costs without raising prices enough for consumers to notice the difference or change a consumer’s mind to switch to another brand. The packaging of products try and convince consumers that they are getting better value if they choose to buy that specific product. This includes “family size” products, which sell for less in terms of per gram or ounce. Another alternative is to actually shrink the packaging size, but minimally, so that consumers do not notice the difference. Now, I’m not a big fan of pop but I have a friend who will drink a few cans a day. He’s noticed that the price of pop stays the same, or has increased by a few dimes, but the packaging has really shrunk over the years.

Tip: One thing to look out for is new packaging. Ever see the “same great product, new design” labels? More often than not, the packaging boasts of a great, new benefit for consumers, however there is a reduction in the amount of product they actually receive. In the photo below, we see that there is a new lid that is supposed to provide an easier pour for consumers, however there is a noticeable reduction in juice that the consumer gets. Perhaps, at this point, it may be better to look into another brand?

 

A less noticeable difference would be Skippy’s peanut butter packaging. Rather than changing the packaging altogether to a new shape, Skippy actually kept their packaging similar, but the bottom of the jar has a deeper indentation, making the amount of peanut butter consumers purchase to be 16.3 ounces instead of 18 ounces.

 

I found these two examples from a 2008 article by CNN Money, but the pattern continues. We’re paying more for less. For more examples from 2008, click here. A very recent example would be Cottonelle’s toilet paper as this blogger has pointed out in their blog. It’s a very descriptive article that shows the differences between the different packages – I highly recommend this quick read!

Another tip is to buy what you are actually going to use. Even if it is cheaper to buy in bulk, you may end up wasting more money by throwing out whatever you don’t end up using.

Looking Beyond “The Range”

This is simple — we usually buy what’s at our eye level.

Tip: Look above or below what you’re comfortable with. You’ll be surprised how much money you may end up saving!